delays and de-lazy

I apologize for the delay in posts, I had a draft that I forgot to publish two days ago. That in and of itself is a bit symbolic for how my head has been. I’m lucky enough to be so supported by a good circle of family and friends, but my mind has been struggling to focus. The issue is that I have a significant amount of work that I need to do.

So here is my advice on the topic: get back up. Even if you’re late responding to an email, respond. Even if you’re late to class, still show up. If you made mistakes, if you couldn’t get the things done you wanted to, jump back in. Do what you can.

“Do what you can”, is incredibly vague. I realize that. Some things we can physically do, but we really shouldn’t or we’ll screw ourselves over in the future. In the most technical semantic sense, you probably could kill someone (it’s what you can do), but that doesn’t mean you should.

When I mutter to myself, “Do what you can”, I’m referring to those specific tasks on my to-do list. Aim for accomplishing as much as the list as possible, and by the end of the day, try to be okay with the fact you only were able to accomplish half.

Some days we are more productive than others. I’m beginning to learn this, although the trick is learning how to be consistently on top of your productivity game.

Some of those tricks include sleeping well, eating well, and staying consistent with your schedule. You can live a fun, novel, and flexible life while still going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 7am. You can enjoy the deliciousness of a good meal while remaining relatively healthy.

Structure isn’t the enemy. When it comes to being free to live your life, there is a certain level of limitation that actually serves us. Limiting our intake of alcohol, decadent food, media, etc., are all ways that improve our ability to be happy and available to do many things.

The issue with structure is that it’s sometimes difficult to implement in our own lives. Sleeping in feels great, even if it ruins the rest of your day.

Furthermore, there are some mistakes we can’t avoid making. Sometimes you forget to publish your post, for example, and there comes a shame because you failed yourself. We wake up late. We miss important emails. The random errors of life will always complicate things.

But so what if it’s difficult? Everything is difficult. The choice is what kind of problems we face for the outcome we want. Again, if you miss the email, respond anyways. If you make a mistake, try to fix it. Misery is comfortable at times, so make yourself uncomfortable.

risks and ladders

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done what you want yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wreck right now. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not the end. Every moment doesn’t feel like a new chance, but it is. Most of the time, the bars and limits we have are those we put on ourselves. If you want to do something more, you can achieve that.

It’s easy to think that couldn’t be the case. We think that if we want to go see a new movie in theaters, we have to go with friends. You don’t, you could go yourself. We think we can’t switch careers, because we wouldn’t even know where to start. Fine, you don’t know where to start, but knowing that means your first step is finding out what the steps are. We think that if we don’t stay or become a certain way, we’ll be alone forever. Surely, there is an importance to listening to what others have to say and heeding their advice, but at the end of the day, there is a line between listening to others and letting them rule your life.

Everything to this point matters in that it has built you up into who you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to play your hand out exactly like it’s expected. We are in a processing of growing, and its going to take a while to get to where we want to go. It’s terrifying to abruptly change, and there are many things that seem way beyond us– and that’s okay! Changing overnight is a difficult and natural thing. What is good is teaching yourself, step by step, to creep towards those goals of yours, pushing what’s comfortable for you. This moment is a chance. This moment too. If you don’t take it now, seriously ask yourself if you ever will.

‘thank you’s are a little awkward, so this is how you do it

There is no shame is needing someone. Turning down offers may seem polite in certain circumstances, but if they offer food and you want food, who benefits from that situation? Giving makes us feel better, and encourages us to be even better people. Accepting a gift or a favor from someone makes them feel like they are generous, kind people, and you get a gift or favor in return! But the awkward part, the part that gives us the most grief, is what to do afterward.

Gratitude is strange. It makes us tense, because we have these emotions, and yet we might not always know how to express them. ‘Thank you” on it’s own may seem too short. In order to remedy the situation, here’s a quick crash course on how to say thank you:

1. Start out with thank you, and/or some sort of exclamation like, “WOw!” or “Oh wonderful!” This first part initiates your response and if it seems like their gift has made an emotional impact on making your life better, the first reception of the gift should be exciting.

2. Explain why you love the gift. If you don’t really know what it is, ask in an interested way about some details of it. Even if you know what it is, pointing out some immediate details that catch your eye that you like. Some situations are more difficult than others, but do your best and practice will makes things easier over time. Noticing the details makes people feel like you are going to use every bit of it.

3. If you can, directly say how this will improve your life. Lay out a difficulty you have that this problem will solve. Again, people want to know that what they are giving you matters to you.

4. End with another thank you. It’s hard to get angry at somehow for being overly thankful, because generally we tend to not be thankful enough.

If you can, the best way to show gratitude, is to do something kind back, especially further on down the road. Remembering and helping them when they need it means something. Hopefully receiving gifts should make us more gracious to other people, and a consistent show of love helps all of our relationships.

bray in and bray out

Growth isn’t easy. It’s like pulling a stubborn donkey along in a crowded city. You keep trying to take the next step but you’re held back by this braying obnoxious creature and everyone is staring at you. The identity of that obnoxious creature changes with one’s mood; first it’s self doubt, then it’s fear, then it’s the opinions of others. And often we want to give in, and let the donkey go where it wants to and just follow behind it. But we shouldn’t!

Growth is hard because you can work super hard and still not see any change. You can do all the right things and wait and wait and it still doesn’t seem to be getting better! You can study for the test and still fail. You can work out and still gain fat. You can try to be kind and still catch yourself saying something cruel. But when you get stuck in those situations, you have two choices: stop trying or figure out a new strategy. And that is very much a choice, to stop. You could absolutely give up, it’s your life and prerogative. The question you have to ask yourself, however, is if your goals mean that little to you. If you’ve been struggling, there is something you’ve been struggling for. If you never work through the pain, you’ll never get to those big dreams.

The second option is to try a new strategy! If the first way doesn’t work, try again, but differently! Research some tips. See what other people have done. Ask for advice! You don’t have to struggle alone. Growth is definitely hard, but it is not impossible.

when you have zero motivation

Sometimes it seems like the point we need the most motivation is the point we have the least. It’s easy to have the drive to do amazing things in the middle of the peptalk, in the middle of the conversation. However, when we need to wake up or push through, motivation somehow disappears through the window.

It is at these moments where we need to pull through and make our own motivation. No human can magically show up everytime we need it. Instead, we need to find the motivation to motivate ourselves. When we can’t focus on our task, we need to instead focus on finding the way to get to that point. Look up quotes! Listen to some intense music! Jump up and down!

We can do amazing things, but only when we have the strength to pull through. Even if you think you don’t have that power, you can build it up. Our willpower is like a muscle. You can’t go straight to the 500 lb. weights and expect to not hurt yourself. So challenge yourself with something that still seems beyond you but that isn’t too far out. Then do it. Take the time. Take the risk! Motivation doesn’t always come organically from within and that’s okay– find it elsewhere and push through.

telling the truth kinda sucks but it’s good for you

There are some situations that are solved best by being honest and telling someone how you feel. Those are also the situations we like to solve by doing practically anything else. Even if we know we’ll end up miserable, keeping the truth to ourselves, we don’t want to confront people. Confrontation is easy between two strangers on Twitter. In real life, with someone you care about? It’s harder.

Most people like other people, I think that’s a safe assumption. We might loathe crowds or become irate at that annoying guy whose laugh rattles your ear drums just a bit too much— but we like approval. Whether it’s from our peers, or it’s respect from our colleagues, or admiration from our friends, it’s nice to feel like we matter. When we build relationships with other people, it can become terrifying to face the truth and say what you mean. It means that all that approval, respect, maybe even love, could disappear. So we hold it in, become passive aggressive or just plain aggressive.

Knowing that “the truth will set you free”, doesn’t necessarily motivate you to be bold about your opinions. We tell ourselves that if we just keep it inside, we’ll just suck it up and move on somehow. There are situations where that might be the proper course of action. But if it keeps coming up, keeps bothering you, that means you care! It means that you should express yourself. If they can’t respect it, they weren’t your friend to begin with.

Even in other kinds of situations, be bold and honest. Say what you mean, in the most respectful way you can. Say the uncomfortable truth and be prepared to listen to whatever they’re going to say. Even if you think you’re not ready– you’ll never be. Just do it. Tell the truth.

drawing from variation

Drawing is like life. Sometimes we sketch something out and it’s amazing, so much better than we were expecting! Other times we work on piece for hours and it still looks like a wreck. There’s that famous story of Picasso, who apparently once drew a photo of a lady for her in 30 seconds, and then demanded a massive amount of money for it. She was outraged! It had taken him 30 seconds! And yet his response was, “It has taken me 30 years to learn how to draw that in 30 seconds”. A lot of people like the flash and dazzle of becoming someone great. But becoming someone great means great sacrifice, all the time, for years. When we work on anything, there’s going to be variation in how it turns out. Like drawing, something it turns out fabulous without effort! Other times? Maybe not so much.

In math textbooks, they usually use data sets that are very clean. A slope is linear, tends to be either strong or nonexistent. Whether it be a parabola, or some a logarithmic trend, they like to use examples where there is a predictable trend. That’s the main focus of statistics, trying to predict where the numbers will end up. And yet, when it comes to things like human actions, it’s not so easy. You can’t plug “stress” into y=mx+b and expect to know when the right time to go to sleep is. Moods go up and down, people around you are affected by their own lives, situations appear out of nowhere! Consistency is a beautiful thing, but frankly, we rarely get it.

There are variations for which we cannot account. There are falls and jumps in the data set of our lives. Sometimes we just have a bad day. Or week. But like drawing, life is something that you practice. Life is art that isn’t quite right just yet. Still, if artists were ever truly done, they wouldn’t be able to make money off of their skill. Each day is a doodle, a sketch in the notepad. Respect that doodle, even if it’s a mess. Remember each mistake brings us closer to another success! There’s going to be variation, ups and downs, before you can see the slope increase overall.

asking the right questions

Who are we? What do we look like from other’s points of view? What impressions do we make upon strangers? Are we funny? Are we peculiar? Are we boring? Are we bland? We ask these sorts of questions, we wonder them all the time. The truth is, we will never know what every single person thinks of us. Nor will we be able to truly experience oursleves as strangers. And yet, the real problem is this: why do we wonder so much about ourselves, give ourselves so much leniency and thought, and miss out so completely on other people?

We tend to mistake humility for self-hatred. Being humble usually somehow “equates” to saying that we are awful people. The truth, however, is that humility isn’t about putting yourself down. Its about being selfless, supporting and encouraging others. On the contrary, when we put ourselves down, the task is very active and makes us focus on ourselves even more. Being humble means sincerely thinking about other’s needs before your own, not ignoring your own.

Being humble is hard. It’s not the natural mode of most people; we like to think about ourselves. But it is also incredibly important. If we desire to know what others think of us and see us as, other people might want to know the same exact thing about themselves. It’s about forgetting about yourself for a while and helping others because we’re all in this together. The great things we want to achieve are impossible alone.

the long haul

“Love at first sight” isn’t real because love means putting others first, sacrificing and compromising selflessly, and we aren’t prone to giving up important things for pretty strangers just because of something that could be there. Faith, trust, love, paitence– some of the greatest virtues human kind has are things that are built. Many times we make lots of snap judgements and live our lives operating on those initial intuitions . However, the things that drive us to be greater than our selfish-selves, they have more substance. If we want to become better people, we need to give ourselves more practice.

Change is a long-term project. Becoming our greatest self, fulfilling our potential, these are goals that take the rest of our lives. The reason they take the rest of our lives is because each day holds the capability of making us just a tad more kind, more loving, more paying, more wise, etc. The change is real and beautiful, but it’s really hard to see when you’re staring at the progress from two inches away. We have to step back and look at our lives as a work of art, with each addition bringing it closer to fruition.

However, it would be a mistake to think that just because we are growing, we aren’t worth anything right now. It is wonderful and good to have goals, it is fantastic and beautiful to work to see them come true! Yet, trying to attack life like a perfectionist who isn’t done-just-yet will also leave you completely frustrated. Change is a long term project, we build up to amazing heights each day, but wanting success in the future doesn’t mean you are a failure right now; it means that haven’t succeeded your goal yet. It means that while we are messed up right now, the process of growing is as valuable as the end goal. So keep going.

understanding the self

There are entire worlds we know nothing about. That includes possible life on other planets, but mostly I mean the experiences of different people on Earth. Watching documentaries can show a lot of that. Even watching reality tv shows about individuals from a certain culture can seem so strange to us because it is strange. It varies from what we normally expect. Part of what makes technology such a game changer is that is allows us to see the lives of people from different races, circumstances, professions, ethnicities, physical wellbeing, personality, and social group interactions! Everyone has troubles, but the flavours vary an amazing, frightening amount.

When we experience emotions, we experience them for a reason. Even our irrational bursts, there is always an emotionally rational reason beneath it, even if that reasoning isn’t fair or logical. Humans are emotional beings. We can’t act as if all emotions are good and healthy, but what we must do is deal with our emotions, all of them.

Feelings are defined as fleeting things. You feel them, and then it’s gone. The more logical side of you kicks in and suppresses the urge. That’s a good, healthy thing for your mind to do; it’s a sign of self control. But there are also deep rooted issues that keep coming back up because we keep pushing them down, and in that situation, we are ignoring instead of solving the problem.

When we want to improve ourselves, we have to put ourselves into context a bit. Like we watch and read about other cultures and people, we have to understand ourselves and our own people. We also have to put context over our emotions: is this just some fad I can push away, or is this a sign of something deeper? And the answers aren’t clear. However, just as other people live in worlds so different from our own, we can make our future a world that is different for the better. To get there, we have to know who we are first, and it’s not going to come all at once. But you can do this! You are stronger than you know. Keep fighting for a better world.